The Great Coconut Oil Debate


As many of you know, we have touted the health benefits of coconut and coconut oil for years and strongly believe that it has a place in a healthy diet. However, there has been much debate in recent weeks thanks to a recent report released by The American Heart Association (AHA) looking at saturated fats in the diet and links to cardiovascular disease, taking specific issue with coconut oil. The report recommends limiting saturated fats to 20 grams/day for women and 30 grams per day for men, the equivalent of about 1-2 tbsp of coconut oil per day.

Here are a few takeaways that we think you should know, and why we are still recommending coconut oil in place of other oils in the diet!

1. While coconut oil is in fact a source of saturated fat, the type of fat that has been linked to raising LDL (bad) cholesterol, it has also been shown to increase your HDL (good) cholesterol. According to Harvard Medical, the best way to assess your total cholesterol levels and overall heart health is by looking at the ratios of both types, "The ratio of total cholesterol-to-HDL is important; the smaller the number the better. For example, someone with a total cholesterol of 200 and an HDL of 60 would have a ratio of 3.3 (200 ÷ 60 = 3.3). If that person's HDL was low - let's say 35 -the total cholesterol-to-HDL ratio would be higher: 5.7."

2. Nearly 2/3 of the fat in coconut oil is in the form of medium chain triglycerides, also known as MCT, a type of fat that is more easily and efficiently absorbed by the body. Most notably is lauric acid. Lauric acid is known to have antimicrobial and antibacterial effects in the body.

3. Fats are essential to the functioning of the human body, both saturated and unsaturated. Fats function to protect our organs, give structural integrity to our cells, help our body absorb fat soluble vitamins, gives us energy and produce important hormones.

4. The AHA has suggested the use of vegetable oils instead of coconut oil, however, these are highly processed, inflammatory and usually come from genetically modified crops. These oils are high in omega 6 fatty acids, which when consumed in excess, cause an imbalance of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids in most people, further leading to inflammation!

5. The notion of dietary fats causing heart disease has been long debated. Cholesterol is complicated and there are many factors involved in heart health. Recent evidence has shown that the cholesterol you eat is not directly related to your serum cholesterol levels.

The take-home message?

Every body is different and there are several causes of cholesterol imbalance including poor diet, diabetes, inactivity and stress. Eating a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, organic and non-GMO whenever possible, whole grains and grass-fed meats and wild fish, healthy fats like nuts, seeds, coconut and avocados and low in processed, refined sugars and trans fat will help to improve overall heart health.